PORTLAND – The Cheverus offense has received the lion’s share of credit this season. Meanwhile, the Stags’ defense has given ground grudgingly.
Saturday was no exception against Portland. And the defense has also been doing something else – covering for turnovers by the offense.
Twice Portland recovered Cheverus fumbles near or in the red zone late in the first half and both times the defense held.
Cheverus just missed its third shutout in a row and sixth this season, but there was little else out of sync as the top-ranked Stags (10-0) rolled to a 35-7 win over No. 5 Portland (6-4) in a Western Class A football semifinal Saturday at Boulos Stadium.
It was Cheverus’ 34th consecutive victory and helped set up a rematch with No. 2 Thornton Academy (9-1) for the regional title at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Cheverus beat the Golden Trojans a year ago in the regional final, and also won three weeks ago in the regular season, 28-14.
Those were the last points scored on Cheverus until Portland scored with just over five minutes left. The Stags blanked Deering the last two weeks.
Donald Goodrich scored three touchdowns and gained 92 yards on 21 carries for Cheverus. Liam Fitzpatrick was 3 for 4 passing for 127 yards and one touchdown.
“Shutouts are nice, but we just want to play hard and improve,” said Cheverus Coach John Wolfgram.
“The kids take a lot of pride in their defense. It’s been solid all season. The kids have really grown on defense and will have to continue to grow when we face Thornton Academy.”
Cheverus stuffed Portland on the opening series, then scored on its third play. Jackson McMann got behind the Portland secondary and Fitzpatrick hit him on a play covering 52 yards.
The Stags built up a 21-0 lead before Portland threatened late in the first half.
Goodrich, in punt formation, bobbled a snap and was tackled at the 23. On second down, Portland’s Ryan Ruhlin threw to Jayvon Pitts-Young at the 2. Two more passes fell incomplete.
The Bulldogs got the ball back on a second Cheverus fumble at the 20, but they were held off the scoreboard again.
“The defense was stout in those cases,” said Wolfgram. “Those stands were keys in making sure we kept the momentum.”
Cheverus put the game away by scoring on its opening series of the second half. The drive covered 81 yards in 11 plays. Goodrich scored from the 12.
Goodrich scored his third touchdown on a 5-yard run at the start of the fourth.
The Bulldogs went 69 yards in 10 plays to get on the board with 5:21 remaining. The key plays were passes from Ruhlin to Nick Volger for 22 yards and to Jordan Talbot for 25. Talbot made a leaping catch at the 1, and Pitts-Young dove in on the next play.
Ruhlin was pressured for most of the game. The Stags sacked him three times.
“They come out and execute,” said Ruhlin. “They play hard for the entire 48 minutes. We were hoping to control the line of scrimmage, but it didn’t work out. They just beat us,” he said.
While the defense was solid, Wolfgram said the offense wasn’t sharp.
“In terms of efficiency and execution, this wasn’t our best game. We’re making more turnovers than we want. Basically, it’s a win and we move on.
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: